10 September, 2016

Response: “Why are ghettos mostly populated by blacks?”

I’ll start by saying that not all ghettos are populated by blacks. The word ghetto itself comes from an Italian term for the area of the town to which Jews are restricted (ethnic Jews are not black). In the United States, the term ghetto has come to mean an urban or suburban area that is poor, a.k.a. low-income, and racially homogenous.

It is true that historically, before the large-scale arrival of other racial groups, American ghettos were populated by blacks. The main reason for this is the Great Migration of African Americans away from the South, along with racist housing policies and possibly some self-segregation.

Before 1910, 90% of America’s black population lived in the South, where blacks had been enslaved, and remained for social and economic reasons. Starting in the 1910s and especially in the 1930s, Southern blacks began moving in large numbers to Northern industrial cities. They wanted to escape racism and violence, and saw opportunity in growing Northern industry.

By 1970, only 50% of black Americans lived in the South. The rest had primary moved to inner-city industrial areas in big cities like Chicago, New York and Detroit. The North certainly afforded blacks more opportunities than the South, but racism was still pervasive. White Americans for the most part did not want black neighbors. Racist housing and renting policies meant that blacks were only able to rent or buy housing in certain parts of town, typically the dirty industrial areas. In addition, when numerous blacks moved into white neighborhoods, whites would quickly relocate out of fear of a potential rise in property crime, rape, drugs and violence that was attributed to neighborhoods with large black populations. This resulted in most Northern cities having a black “ghetto” in the traditional sense – a part of town to which blacks were restricted.

In the 1970s and the years that followed, Northern industry began to decline. White industrial workers generally had no problem moving out to the suburbs, or taking out a loan to start small businesses. Over time, most of the traditional white ghettos managed to fade away. The poor black ghettos, however, remained—it was harder for blacks to get loans and hew housing. In addition to outright racism, white suburbs were not accommodating to black culture. Poor urban blacks were stuck and often had to resort to extralegal means of making money—often with drugs—perpetuating the negative stereotypes that blocked them from escaping poverty.

After several decades, things are slowly beginning to change. It’s still true that the poorest parts of American cities are often inhabited by blacks. However, the term “ghetto” has been appropriated into a totally new cultural phenomenon, representing urban black culture. People of all races and incomes are often seen emulating ghetto culture. For many black Americans it is a rare source of pride. This leads to a complicated situation—African American communities are eager to rise out of poverty, but reluctant to get rid of ghetto culture, which is central to many blacks’ identity.

What about non-black ghettos?

It’s a bit of a different story. It’s easy to broadly blame it all on racism, but the real story is much more nuanced. Most Asians and Hispanics, unlike blacks, are recently immigrated. Asians and Hispanics did face racial discrimination in housing, which is how “Chinatowns” first appeared. However, most Asian and Hispanic immigrants arrived in the United States after such overt racism had largely subsided.

In the case of Hispanic or Latin ghettos, they are actually a legacy of the white-black racist struggle. Affordable housing left behind by whites who fled the decline of industry was taken up by Hispanic immigrants. Blacks who did manage to move out to the suburbs also left behind affordable urban housing, which mostly Hispanics took up. Subsequent generations of Hispanic immigrants often settled in these newly-Hispanic ghettos, reinforcing the racial divide. They did this for several reasons: affordable housing, family or friends, and the Spanish-English language barrier.

Asian ghettos in the US are now rare, mostly found on the West Coast. Usually these areas are inhabited by Filipinos, Vietnamese, and people from other lower-income East Asian countries. This is because other Asian nationalities either came to the US with advanced skills (e.g. Koreans, Indians), or had gradually integrated and shifted out of ghettos over the generations (many Chinese, Japanese). The reasons for these Asian ghettos existing are largely the same as for Hispanics—self-segregation for family or linguistic reasons, as well as economic affordability of housing.

Outright racism is much less of a factor for these groups than it was for blacks, since their arrival came mostly after the 1970s. Hispanic and Asian Americans are more economically successful and less racially segregated than African Americans.

6 Comments on “Response: “Why are ghettos mostly populated by blacks?”

3 December, 2017 at 6:49 am

Hispanics are not immigrants. We have always been here and are Indigenous that have been separated by a evil wall after having our land stolen by European invaders who have been fighting one another for power, greed and slaves which were not only blacks but also us but these people do not talk about that truth. Stop calling us Hispanics (even Latinos) trying to assimilate us with everybody else that isn’t Indigenous. Trying to destroy us that we are Indigenous. Asians came here by choice and also being tricked to come here.

What is now called the USA were once speaking Spanish thus having many Spanish named cities, towns, etc from Cali to Texas so this article is not fully elaborating the entirety. Stating that “racism” isn’t outright is an outright now. Mexicans were being lynched in California to Texas in the late 18th and early 19th century. There much more things this article is not telling the truth on or it is just ignorantly isn’t known.

I also did not read anything about my Native American brothers and sisters who are in worse shape then blacks living in ghettos. Stop thinking that only blacks get full outright racism. We Indigenous been a victim of that much longer then blacks, 500 years and counting and we too were slaves right along side picking cotton with them. Ridiculous!

7 December, 2017 at 4:25 pm

You raise an important issue but you are exaggerating the number of Hispanics present in the US before the 1970s. Those Hispanics that “have always been here” amount to a very small fraction of the US Hispanic population. They faced real challenges, including racism, but their story is only a small part of the Hispanic immigrant experience. Have a look:

Dennis Flynn III
5 January, 2018 at 5:26 pm

Umm you realize Spanish is a EUROPEAN language? Hispanic means a mixture of European (Spanish or in cases like Brazil, Portuguese) and indigenous pre-columbian peoples. So unless you are 100% Aztec or Maya and speak the tribal Languages, then you yourself are the descendants of the “evil” Europeans you speak of. Spanish isn’t native, its the language of the conquistadors who conquered Central and South America. Hispanic Mexicans are not indigenous. Only the pure descendants of Maya, Olmec and Aztec, Zapotecs are. By the way, I am 100% Gaelic Irish. My peoples land was conquered, subjugated and raped by the English and British. Our language (Gaelic) was outlawed, our clan system outlawed, our outright practice of our religion banned and our customs and even clothing and native hairstyles OUTLAWED! We were kicked off our own land and forced to work the land that was previously OURS and if we didn’t make enough for the new lords we were thrown out to starve. My ancestors came to America in 1922. Almost 75 years after the Civil War and slavery. We live in NY now and have nothing to do with the conquering of other native peoples or any kind of colonialism. The only colonialism we know is being colonized and raped by our own fellow Europeans who didn’t see us as being European. We were and still are jokingly called in Europe by other Europeans the n*****s of Europe. Half my family still lives in Ireland. We go there often. In fact Boston and until 20 yrs ago NYC has the only ghetto and housing project occupied by all whites in South Boston…all Irish families in that ghetto.

5 February, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Ouch! Ireland was mostly subjugated in the 13th Century by Normans based in England, which they had invaded 200 years earlier. Normans had settled in Normandy 300 years prior to that having come from Scandinavia.
The (current) British Isles were populated and depopulated multiple times during the recent ice ages across a land bridge connecting them to continental Europe, these peoples also spread to what is now Ireland,
We are all Africans, squabbling over which family beat up others centuries ago is ridiculous.

But my paternal grandfather was a Scot and I was raised in Wales so I have chips on both shoulders.

8 February, 2018 at 3:33 pm

Very good. Cut the rage and let’s get onto resolving current social interfaces.

7 December, 2017 at 6:03 pm

Louisiana Purchase.


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